Your Guild: High School All Over….

Posted: June 28, 2007 by Kendricke in Guilds

Divide and rule, a sound motto. Unite and lead, a better one. 

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


If you’ve been a member of a guild for any significant amount of time, you’ve come across the dreaded “clique”.  Maybe a few members joined your guild at the same time.  Perhaps you have a group of real-world friends who play with each other.  Maybe you’ve had a guild merger along the way.  Couples or family members can be just as exclusive with their online time.

So, how do you fight cliques within your guild?

The short answer:  You don’t.

That’s right.  I learned a long time ago not to fight the concept of cliques.  Unfortunately, a lot of guild officers I know of haven’t picked up on this simple, yet critical lesson yet.  It’s leading to stress, tension, drama, and if approaches to the subject aren’t modified, it’s going to result in lost members – groups at a time.

Too many guild officers see cliques as a destructive force.  Groups of players who spend all their time together are often seen as anti-social – even anti-guild.  Officers sometimes resort to efforts designed to break up such cliques, perhaps by separating couples during raids, or even during suggested (or assigned) nightly groupings.

Cliques exist for a reason.  Players naturally gravitate towards other players for any number of reasons.  I’ve seen cliques based around family ties, real world geography, and even in-game classes or races.  Whatever the reason, accept that these cliques formed for a reason and you’ll save yourself all manner of stress and tension in the long run.  Cliques aren’t just some artificial group dynamic – these are very real relationships between people, and just as you need to tread carefully when criticizing your friends romantic choices in the real world, you need to be careful when trying to disrupt relationships that your members have formed within your guild.

This advice flies in the face of convential wisdom.  After all, most guild leaders “know” that cliques are generally bad; that they erode at team morale, and lead to eventual drama.  What most guild leaders don’t recognize within their own logic is the fact that this erosion of morale and increase in drama are often reactions to attempts to disrupt the cliques. 

In short, it’s best not to try to disrupt these cliques.  Accept them, and even encourage them. Identify the likely influential leaders of such cliques within your guild and directly engage them in conversations on how you’d like them to better help the guild overall.  Ask their advice on ways you can do things better, and suggest ways they could set up grouping nights with their friends and family (i.e., “cliques”).  Make certain you do what you can to convey this desire through other officers as well. 

Cliques are a fact of guild life.  Every guild has them.  Every guild gets them.  Fight them and you’ll lose, pretty much every time.  You’ll increase your own personal stress and raise the tension within your ranks. 

Instead, work with your guild’s internal influencers, instead of against them.  When possible, work to have those internal groups together as often as possible.  Have them put together static group nights.  See if you can get them working on quests together.  Even encourage friendly rivalries between different groups within the guild. 

When properly harnessed, internal cliques can be some of the best ways your guild can accomplish overall goals.  Delegate out responsibilities, and when appropriate, promote leaders of various cliques to officer positions to further strengthen the ties between the sub-group and the guild as a whole.  Envelop and encourage the cliques to continue working together, and you’ll be amazed at the complexity of diversity this can bring to your guild’s overall nightly dynamics.

  1. marc says:

    making clique leaders officers=bad idea, it just reinforces any negativity regarding those cliques
    people generally detest those types of favoritism cliques, and frankly the people in those types of cliques will never be motivated to put the guild or other people’s interests in mind for anything
    what makes it worse is when the officers themselves are a clique and pretty much blow off everyone else. want to talk about a morale killer, there it is

  2. I agree that you don’t want to try to break up cliques… after all, the people play together because they like playing together. It’s a game. If you’re not having fun, you’ll stop playing.

    However, I think you’re sidestepping the larger issue with cliques (that I’ve seen happen from time to time)– when the clique does include at least one officer or raid organizer (as they often can) and then someone who is a member of the clique gets a raid slot or a group slot over someone who isn’t a member of the clique but deserves it more, which breeds animosity in the non-clique population.

    Have you ever seen that happen, and how did/would you deal with it if it has/did?

  3. kendricke says:

    Marc and Cameron,

    Firstly, I stated to promote those members “where appropriate”. If you don’t feel an influential member of your guild is an “appropriate” choice for a leadership position, you’re free to ignore such a person. However, you do so at your own peril. Realize that cliques exist – accept that fact or not as you wish. However, just ignoring the cliques or pretending such influencers don’t exist is simply irresponsible leadership.

    If those clique influencers are good members, then promote them as you can. If they are troublemakers, then you either engage them directly and try to get them on the same page as the rest of the guild’s leadership, or you don’t. The choice is up to you. Just understand that ignoring an influencer – or worse, working against them – isn’t going to suddenly effect a positive change just because you hope for it. Leadership involves work. The work here is relationship building. Either you take responsibility for building those bridges, or you wait for someone else to take the responsibility from you.

    Being a leader in a voluntary environment (read: MMO’s) isn’t about commanding others. It’s about bringing them around to your view of things. It’s not about orders. It’s about setting expectations and cultivating an environment of acquienscience. You can tell people what to do, but at the end of the day, if they don’t feel it’s in their best interests to do so, they won’t do it.

    I would argue that any issues regarding cliques aren’t necessarily caused by the cliques per se, but in less-than-effective guild leadership failing to properly engage influential clique members toward guild goals.

    I’m the leader of my guild. The buck stops here. If there are issues within my guild’s rank and file, I take responsibility for those issues and work to see to it that those problems are addressed.

    If you’re seeing issues with members – cliques or not – you need to address those issues, through effective conflict resolution, setting and re-setting proper expectations, and in the worst cases removing the worst offenders.

    I personally have little patience or sympathy for leaders who blame others within their membership for guild issues. Take blame and hold it for yourself, and give praise to your members – freely and frequently.

    If there are legitimate issues within the guild, there’s larger issues at play than just “cliques”. Yes, I’ve dealt with cliques. Any guild with more than a handful of members has dealt with cliques at some point. I used to attempt to handle cliques directly or confrontationally. I’ve attempted quite a few different tactics, actually.

    However, I’ve learned the hard way time and again that the best way to handle cliques is exactly what I’ve stated above – officers, members, pledges…whoever. Most leaders have a hard time comprehending the idea of simply setting expectations and trying to talk through problems. Too many leaders (especially younger or inexperienced leaders) try too hard to simply give in to demands from members for fear of losing them.

    I’m not advocating giving up the farm here, but I am suggesting that an iron fisted approach isn’t exactly your best approach, either.

    Right now, I’ve got tons of cliques in the Legion. I could probably name about a good dozen or so just with our 52 members. Several members belong to more than one clique. Officers are involved in a few.

    So what?

    Treat the players like players – not like numbers in a formation or cogs in a machine. Treat them with respect. Take them aside privately and honestly speak with them and try to resolve conflict. You dont’ need to drop to your knees and beg for acceptance here, but neither should you start pulling rank on people.

    Determine if a player is generally happy within your guild. If so, work through any possible issues and let it go. If not, let them go. Don’t keep unhappy members just to fill the seats. It’s not good for your guild or the unhappy members.

    As far as favortism, this brings me back to expectations setting once more. Set the expectations early, and revisit them frequently. Make it clear what it takes to win loot or earn a raid slot. If a member isn’t happy about getting set aside often, take them aside and explain why they aren’t getting on raids. If you have public expectations properly set, this should be easy. If not, you have larger problems than cliques.

    Cliques aren’t typically the cause of issues within a guild – not by themselves, at least. Usually, issues where cliques are involved are symptomatic of larger issues at play, at least in my experience. Your own experience on the subject may vary.

  4. kendricke says:

    By the way, quick snapshot of my own leadership style:

    Four of my guild’s twelve officers were some of my worst critics prior to being promoted to the leadership ranks. All four of them are STILL some of my firmest critics. However, they’re also some of our most loyal and effective officers.

    I don’t promote members just to “shut them up” or bribe them. I look for respected members who have talent or good work ethics, and offer them a chance to help the guild out a bit more (usually by putting them in a position of authority on raids, or in heading up some guildwide event or quest effort), and then see if that works out. If it does, I tend to nominate them as officers (and let our promotion process work through at that point).

    By acknowledging and encouraging open dissent in a guild, you tend to squash backchannel dissent. By promoting dissenters, you cultivate an environment where members realize it’s ok to be critical – so long as it’s done so constructively.

  5. Kilanna says:

    After reading your article and conidering this issue – I realised that I am actually one of those who are sort of in a clique.

    Since joining my guild around 2 months ago, I have found myself almost exclusively grouping with the same folks on a regular basis. This is not to say that we exclude anyone or I dont want to group with other people – it is just that we have similar play times and play styles, our classes work together well, we are actively helping each other out on quests and we enjoy a good laugh together.

    Each evening when I log on, I eagerly anticipate which of my friends will be available and making plans for the evening. The bonds between a regular group are amazing – each gets to know how the others work and each develops a confidence in the other. I know this sounds silly but I miss those friends when they are not around.

    I would expect the guild leadership to not be pleased if our group was being discourteous or disrespectful to other members of the guild, but we are not. As a “rank and file” member I would not be impressed if there were ‘directions’ regarding how I spend my online time and with whom.

  6. […] course the day would not be complete with some sort of guild drama. I’ve seen other posts about cliques and guild issues, that’s always going to be present pretty much any time you […]

  7. Tomanak says:

    While I do agree that attempting to quash clique is an exercise in futilty, the biggest problems I’ve noted is the impact it has on those members NOT a part of the bigger clique. When one logs on and sees the same 6 people grouped up (or 12 or whatever) and is thereby relegated to the fringes of PuGs, soloing or crafting, it makes them feel somewhat diminshed and makes them more likely to leave the guild for greener pastures. While one can says its as much level driven as anything else (sorry dude, as a level 35 you cant play with the big boys) it is nonetheless a real problem. While we try to make an effort to mentor down and make these individuals feel like they are part of the guild, the perception still exists that they are somehow ‘less’.

  8. kendricke says:

    And perception is reality in this case.

    I hate to say it, but if you join a guild outside of their normal level range, you’re setting yourself up for a situation where you’re simply going to have to rely upon yourself more – even within the guild.

    Cliques (or whatever you want to call them) are going to happen. It’s a reality. I don’t advocate exclusivity. I do however encourage players to acknowledge the existance of cliques and to work on ways to integrate cliques into their organizations.

  9. Tomanak says:

    “if you join a guild outside of their normal level range, you’re setting yourself up for a situation where you’re simply going to have to rely upon yourself more”

    I agree with this, unfortunetly while other guilds may do so (and maybe should) we tend not to restrict admission based on level as a number of the leaders feel this makes us exclusionary. This then creates a vacumn between those in their 70’s and those in their 30s. Yeah I can mentor, but I want to run Unrest not do RoV again….

    Again I agree that cliques exist and have recommended that all of the Officers and Leaders of the guild read this article.

  10. kendricke says:

    The irony of that situation is not lost upon me. We used to maintain a level restriction in order to be LESS exclusionary.

    By allowing level 30’s to join a guild, you need to recognize the situation you’re setting up for those potential younger members. It needs to be explained to them – CLEARLY – the difficulties they are likely to face. Otherwise, though you’re less exclusive on who you bring into the guild, you’re actually more exclusive in how the guild’s day to day dealings are dealt with.

  11. Jeff says:

    While I agree that clique’s are part of society, ingame and real life interaction, I don’t necessarily think they are good or bad, unless people in them are being negative toward the guild. Then obviously, they need to leave if they are not happy. I’ve been in groups of like people, married or just couples, 3 sets of us about the same or the same level ingame, that hang out certain hours of the day due to our time zones being close to each other, etc. Is it wrong to play with those same players most of the time? It is not the 6 of us in that case that are shutting out anyone, as groups are limited to 6 in EQ2. I would gladly group with others regularly, but they aren’t on the same times of the day, or as often. It is just simple human nature for people to look to satisfy their needs in my opinion. Should that be punished, not at all. Sometimes it works out to the advantage. In several cases in our guild, folks that play alot have leveled several characters to the level cap in order to play different characters during groups or raids, just so they are more flexible to help out. I myself have several high level characters to keep the game interesting, benefit myself and the guild by having a variety of roles I can fill and can help out with whichever during a person or groups time of need.
    While most people don’t want to revisit older zones while mentored, I don’t mind, on occasion doing so. I said on occasion and I meant it, yes. I have worked hard, in groups and out of groups at times, to get my characters where they are in level, questlines, etc. I don’t have any obligations to help people 40 levels lower than I every day. I do have an obligation to promote others around the same level to get together, share the knowledge I have about what they are doing at the time, group with them on occasion and mentor them to help them through a zone, quest, etc. and promote guild spirits whenever possible.
    I’m not perfect, so I don’t always do these things as efficiently as I could, but I always try to keep them in my scope of gameplay for myself and my guild. I care about each and every one of my guildmates. Some more than others because I know them better, or they have been around longer, etc., but nonetheless, I do care about them and I hope that they tell me or another leader when they are happy or not happy. If I can do something about it, I will. If I can’t, I’ll tell them I can’t, or can’t right this second, but can soon or on a specific date.
    I really feel it’s all about being honest with everyone. I don’t play this or any game to make others happy, but while I’m in game, I sure try my best as a leader to make them as happy as I possibly can.
    I try to compare it to my family.

    You have moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandmas, grandpas, sons and daughters all in one big mess called a guild. I don’t expect that anyone will be 100% effective at making each and every one of those people happy 100% of the time. I know I could never do that in my family. But, if you make an effort, get other leaders and other officers, and other members to make that same effort to have fun and achieve goals, then I believe that is how you make a successful guild in general. If no one has fun anymore, then why play? That’s doesn’t mean throw in the towel, it means mention it to a leader or someone you feel safe talking to about it and find out how you can make it more of a challenge, or more fun, or more entertaining, etc. If that don’t work… I would honestly have to move on to another guild or game, or stop gaming. I would hope that doesn’t happen to many folks, but I’m sure it’s a possibility.

  12. […] I guess that as long as I keep vigilant and aware of the possibility, then we might avoid becoming that clique in a negative sense.   Never forgetting that behind each Avatar is a real person.   It is something I have tried to keep in mind and often recall this post from Kendricke. […]

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